The Strangest Parade
January 2nd, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
THE STRANGEST PARADE
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
1-2-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Strangest Parade. Before I read the passage that shall comprise our text and context, could I say a word of personal welcome and appreciation for the governor of Louisiana who with his family is worshiping with us this holy hour?
About three weeks ago, I shared with him a dedication service in the First Baptist Church of Bossier City, Louisiana. They have built a new sanctuary there, one that costs $1,500,000. It’s one of the most beautiful church buildings in America. And to my glad surprise, the governor of the state was there to help them dedicate that building; a big, fine, good-looking man, Governor McKeithen. And as I preached that night, the governor turned to the pastor of the church and said, "Pastor, I wish we had preachers like him in our Methodist denomination." And when the pastor told me about it after the service was over, I replied to him, "And good doctor, I wish we had governors like McKeithen in all fifty states of our United States of America." He’s a noble man and is doing a great work in our sister state of Louisiana. And to welcome him here this morning is a happiness to my own heart and of course an inexpressible delight to our minister of music. Do you notice his LSU tie on this morning? decked out in all the colors of the Bayou State.
Now, the message is dedicated, and I could pray achieves its purpose of setting the tone and the outline for our greatest year. Our staff, our deacons, our educational leadership, our church congregation, all of our people are committed to a tremendous evangelistic, soul-winning campaign this year. We have entitled it "The Tell Dallas Campaign." We hope to reach every man and every family and every soul in this vast metropolitan area with a personal invitation to accept Christ as Savior. And in keeping with that tremendous dedication, the sermon is preached today, The Strangest Parade. The background of the message and the text is found in the nineteenth chapter of the Third Gospel, Luke 19, beginning at verse 36:
And as Jesus went, they spread their clothes in the way.
And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
And some of the Pharisees among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out.
And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it,
Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
And they shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
The Strangest Parade.
All of us are familiar with parades. If you looked on the television yesterday, you saw some of the most effectively beautiful parades that the eye could ever look upon. And in our city of Dallas, many of you looked upon or shared in the beautiful Cotton Bowl Parade. In our nation’s greatest city, in New York, it is a custom in our land, when we welcome a hero, that he be given a ticker tape welcome, riding down the broad avenues of New York City, amid the acclaim of the people and the shouts of the multitudes; and the hero comes riding by in an open convertible, waving and smiling upon the people.
It was just such a parade as is outlined here in the Gospel. The only thing is, I suppose, there was not a chariot or a horse in Judea, save those that were owned by the Roman legionnaires. So the people did what they could. They took a beast of burden, and they set the Lord Jesus upon the beast [Luke 19:35]. And they laid before the footsteps of the coming of the Lord their garments and palm branches [Matthew 21:8; Luke 19:36]. And they shouted and they sang, "Hosanna in the highest; glory to God, blessed be the Son of David, the King of Israel" [Matthew 21:8-9; Luke 19:38], a marvelous and glorious appearance of the Messiah as He offered Himself as Israel’s promised and foretold King.
But there is something about this parade that is unusually different from any other that I ever heard of or that I ever saw in my life. Instead of the king and the hero waving, and smiling, and entering into the spirit of exaltation and victory, behold, He weeps: "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. There on that high eminence of Olivet, looking down upon the great city spread out before Him, and the people shouting and acclaiming and glorifying God, and there He beholds the city and the throngs around Him, and He bursts into tears, eklausen, He bursts into tears. Not that it is strange that the Lord weeps; we have known Him weeping. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept [John 11:35]. In the garden of Gethsemane, with strong crying and tears, He poured out His soul in intercession and appeal unto God [Hebrews 5:7-8].
In fact, so oft times did the Lord burst into tears that when the Master asked His disciples, "Whom say men that I am?" the disciples said, "Some say that Thou art Jeremiah, the weeping prophet" [Matthew 16:13-14]. It was Jeremiah who lamented, saying, "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow" [Lamentations 1:12]. It was Jeremiah who cried, "Oh that my head . . . were a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" [Jeremiah 9:1]. Like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, so oft times did our Lord break into tears. So the strangeness of this situation is not that the Lord cried [Luke 19:41]. The multitudes and His disciples had oft seen Him cry. But the amazing spectacle, the astonishing story is that He cries upon the occasion of His finest victory and His greatest triumph. For the people are acclaiming Him, and the whole city is moved in His coming, and there is shouting, and there is rejoicing, and there is acclamation, and there is acceptance [Luke 19:35-38].
There seems to be glory everywhere. And yet, as the Lord rises to the eminence of Mount Olivet and looks upon the great city spread out before Him, He bursts into tears [Luke 19:41]. Why? For one thing, He weeps as He looks upon the throngs around Him. Today, the triumphal, royal entry day, they are shouting and acclaiming; but these are the same people that come Friday will be shouting, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Away with Him! Away with Him!" [John 19:15]. One day shouting, "Hallelujah to Jesus," and the next day shouting, "Crucify Him! take Him, from the face of the earth."
As the Lord looked upon the city before Him He saw the palace in which He would be condemned, the Via Dolorosa down which He would bear His cross, and the Hill of a Skull upon which He would be raised beneath the sky. I tell you I don’t know of anything that is more fickle and unsubstantial than the acclaim of humanity, nothing, nothing. There’s not a political leader but that knows it. There’s not a leader of any art but that knows it. And there’s not a man who stands for righteousness and for God but who knows it: one day, "Hallelujah" [Matthew 21:9; Luke 19:37-38], and the next day, "Crucify Him! Away with Him" [John 19:15].
You know the cross and the pouring out of the life of our Lord, the crucifixion of Jesus, is a manifestation of the indescribable, unfathomable eternal love of God. "For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. This is a demonstration of the unspeakable, illimitable mercy and grace and love of God: the atonement of Jesus for our sins [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8; 1 John 4:10]. But I tell you another thing. The cross is also a demonstration of the depravity and the sin of the human race! If you want to know what mankind is really like, look; there open and naked, exposed before the eyes of the world and of God, our judgment, and our sin, and our depravity, our villainy, our wickedness [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He weeps because of the throngs around Him.
He weeps because of the city before Him. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," He cried, "O city of God, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, behold, your house is left unto you desolate" [Luke 13:34-35]. Our Lord could see what few men are able to see: that destiny is determined by our relationship to Almighty God [1 John 5:12].
When a people reject, and reject, and reject, there sometime, somewhere, someday comes a judgment from the Almighty! Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, to whom they likened the Lord Jesus, Jeremiah cried to Judah and to Jerusalem, "Repent!" [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And the bitter and hasty Babylonians came in 605 BC and carried Daniel and some of the other of the elect away into captivity [Daniel 1:1-6]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice, and he cried again to Judah, "Repent! Repent!"
And the Babylonians came a second time, in 598 BC, and carried Ezekiel, another of the elect away into captivity [2 Kings 24:11-14]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice once again, and cried to Judah, "Repent! Turn ye! Turn ye!" And the Babylonians came the third time in 587 BC; and this time they didn’t need to come again. They carried the entire family of God into captivity. They plowed up Jerusalem, and they burned the great and beautiful Solomonic temple [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:1-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21]. And nothing left but to weep and to cry. And the Lord weeps over the city lying before Him, unable to see that righteousness exalts the nation, and a kingdom lives in the imponderables of Almighty God [Luke 19:41].
And as the Lord stood on the brow of Olivet and looked at the great city before Him, so the Lord stands in glory and looks upon the city spread out before Him. And what the Lord saw then, the Lord sees now, as beholds the city spread out before Him. First, our Lord speaks against the ominous background of judgment and of war [Luke 19:41-44].
All of us in the Southwest are familiar with the clouds that gather dark and foreboding in the north. A blizzard, or a storm, or a northerner is about to strike. And the north becomes turbulent, and black, and threatening, and lowering, and ominous. We live in such an hour today. Against a horizon of everything America does is that ominous background of an awesome and an ominous and a gathering storm.
Were it just we, we who are older, and the sky is filled with lurid death, and the judgment of God falls upon a nation, and our cities are burned into ashes, and our people into crisp fragments of what once was a living and vibrant humanity, were it just we who are older; but do you notice, as the Lord describes the destruction of the city of God, He puts in a little phrase, "And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and thy children" [Luke 19:44]. Were it just we, it might not be so horrible and so terrible. But when you look into the face of these little children, what kind of a world will they know? And what kind of a world will they live in? And what kind of a world are we preparing for their little feet to walk in? Oh, it brings pause and trembling to your soul, for you see, we are no different from them: "It was impossible," said the Judeans: "It is impossible that God would destroy our people, and our nation, and our city, and our house of worship! It is impossible. And however we may have sinned, and however we may have been villainous, and however we may have desecrated and blasphemed and forgot, yet are we not as vile and as wicked as those bitter and merciless and hasty Assyrians and Chaldeans?" [Habakkuk 16].
But the Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to preach to Judah and to say, "I have raised them up. They are the rod of Mine anger and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. And the Lord sent Habakkuk the prophet to say, "I have ordained them for judgment and I have established them for correction" [Habakkuk 1:12]. And however vile and villainous these blaspheming enemies may be on the other side of the sea, yet the Lord sometimes uses an uncircumcised nation and a blaspheming nation to chastise His people!
And I do not think that America can endure in villainy, and in wickedness, and in drunkenness, and in debauchery, and in blasphemy against God! The Lord looks upon our people today against the ominous background of the judgment of Almighty God. "Except ye repent, except ye turn, ye shall all likewise perish" [Luke 13:3].
And what does the Lord see as He looks down upon our people today? What does the Lord see? He sees today a colossal and increasing impenetrable indifference. Indifference, forget it, increasingly so; we are becoming heathen, and pagan, and Godless.
To me, the great hurt and inexpressible sorrow, walking among the cities of Russia, was not that these great beautiful churches are closed and padlocked. This one is a railroad station, and this church is a granary, and this church is a warehouse, and these others locked or falling into ruins. The great hurt and tragedy was not to look upon those beautiful houses of worship fallen into ruin and decay. The tragedy is I could see no feeling of regret. The people don’t miss it. They don’t care.
I stood one time on the Mount of Olives. I stood one time on Mt. Calvary, Gordon’s Calvary. And this is the place where Jesus was crucified [Luke 23:33], and this is the place where He was raised up [Matthew 28:1-7], and this is the ground that drank His blood [John 19:28-34], and this is the holiest place on God’s earth, where atonement was made for our sins [Romans 5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17]. And as I stood there, I tried to think great thoughts, "O Lord, this holy place. I must think great thoughts, for this is the cross of Calvary."
And yet as I stood there and tried to think great thoughts, what I saw was this: I was standing in the midst of an unkempt Muslim cemetery and the stones thrown in disarray all around. I was standing on top, and below me, spread out was a junkyard, and then just beyond the Damascus Gate, and the people hawking their wares, and then on the other side the Nablus Road, the road that leads north and finally to Damascus, there wasn’t anybody that stopped.
There wasn’t anybody that looked. There wasn’t anybody that cared. And my soul died within me; as far as I could see, to the right and the left and the east and the west, nobody, nobody, and the whole earth in unbelief and in rejection! The vast, colossal indifference of the human race to the love of God in the atonement of Christ Jesus: it couldn’t be better expressed than by the great religious leader and poet Studdert Kennedy in his poem "When Jesus Came to Birmingham." And let me change it: "When Jesus Came to Dallas Town."
It goes like this:
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
But when Jesus came to Dallas town, they simply passed Him by.
They hurt not a hair of His head, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, they would not cause Him pain,
They simply passed on down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, they know not what they do,"
And still it rained that bitter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home, and left the street without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.
[adapted from "Indifference," Geoffrey A. Studdert Kennedy, 1919]
Anything but to forget, anything but, "I don’t care." Anything but just to pass by. And yet that’s what the Lord sees when He looks down upon our people; a colossal, unbreakable, impenetrable indifference. But oh, there is so much more. As the Lord looked down upon that city, He saw the commissioned few. And as the Lord looks down upon our city, He sees the commissioned few; maybe not all, but some, but some. One of the most effective pictures I’ve ever seen is this famous one of the Lord Jesus; and He is pointing, and standing by His side following the direction of His hands, are the apostles John and Simon Peter.
The Lord is pointing. The Lord is commissioning. The Lord is sending. And there are visions of conquest, and of evangelism, and of soulwinning in the eyes of John and Simon Peter. Our greatest challenge lies in the darkness of paganism that increasingly surrounds us. Like John the Baptist, we are to be a burning and a shining light. And like those early apostles, we are to be aflame in the name of the Lord.
And that leads me to my next avowal, what the Lord looks upon when He sees, as in Jerusalem, our city. He sees the ascension gift, the Holy Spirit, bestowed from heaven, power for the work [Acts 1:8]. I don’t minimize the odds against the disciples in that long ago day, nor do I seek to decry the awesomeness of the hosts of hell that rose against them. But I am avowing to you that Christ in heaven matched their souls and their lives against an entire pagan world! Eleven men against the world [Matthew 28:16-20]; Caesar, the Roman legions, the whole civilized earth bathed and drowned in idolatry, and heathenism, and paganism. Undiscouraged, but with victory and triumph, the Lord God sent His disciples out with the ascension gift from heaven; the empowerment, the enduement of the Holy Spirit.
And my friend and my brother, you don’t know how that equation comes out. When you place one man and God on one side, you don’t know. You don’t know. To the shaking of the foundations of the very universe is the bearing of the great, mighty, strong hand of the living Lord. One of the assurances any man of God, any disciple of Jesus, can have, any time, anywhere, is this. When he names the name of Jesus, and when he speaks the invitation of the Lord, God is with him. And how it shall fare and what glory it shall accomplish is known but to the Almighty.
And may I conclude? What did our Lord see when He looked out over that city then? [Luke 19:41]. When He looks out over our city now? He sees an inevitable and final victory and triumph. We shall not lose, never, never. We shall not fail, never, ever. God is with us. And in the beautiful prophecy of Zechariah, fulfilled that day when the Lord on the foal of an ass entered into Jerusalem [Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-5]; in the same glorious prophet Zechariah, in the succeeding chapter, the prophet says, "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives [Zechariah 14:4]. And the Lord thy God shall come, and all the saints with Him [Zechariah 14:5]. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth" [Zechariah 14: 9].
Not that we shall not know defeat, and disappointment, and trial, and sorrow; we shall, but, we shall not fail. God shall crown our efforts with glory, and triumph, and victory. And it is ours to be faithful and committed unto death.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Our triumph is certain and sure. So we enter this year with the finest, most glorious unanimity of prayer, and commitment, and courage that this church has ever known and I could pray that Christendom has ever seen. God bless the choirs as they sing for Jesus. God bless the deacons as they rise up to lead out for Jesus. God bless our congregation as they pour their lives into this appeal for Jesus.
It will be worth it all,
When we see Jesus
Life’s trials will seem so small,
When we see Him
["It Will Be Worth It All," Esther Kerr Rushthoi]
Some glorious and triumphant day, either soon when we are called to face our Lord in glory, or some other hour when the Master appears in glory in the sky [1 Thessalonians 4:16], there is no future but one of triumph and blessing and victory for the child of God. So the Lord bless us and work with us as we face this glorious new year for Him.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give himself to Jesus. A family you to come into the fellowship of the church, as we sing this song of appeal, "Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming." "Pastor, this is my little girl, or my little boy, today taking Jesus as Savior." A couple you or one somebody you in the balcony round, the throng on this lower floor, come. Come today, the first Sunday of the new year. What a glorious time to respond. While we sing this song of appeal, stand and come, while all of us sing our hymn together, praying, hoping, waiting for you. Amen.